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A successful promotional email message obviously needs to be sent to a high-quality list of customers, prospects, or targeted interest groups. In the heyday of direct mail, educational product and service companies had entire teams of circulation managers that combed over buyer files, compiled files, and buyer models in the search of the best list of targets to mail too.  Catalog production and mailing costs were expensive and mailing list address quality were essential.  If a company budgeted for 100,000 catalogs, then the circulation manager’s job was to find the absolute best set of 100,000 recipients possible. But the advent of email marketing opened the door for low-cost outreach to an almost unlimited audience.  Educational marketers found it easier to blast away.  Circulation managers went the way of the dinosaur and companies just started sending mass saturation messages.  “Go big or go home” as they say. Educational marketers quickly lost the art of how to properly test and target.  It was common for MCH Strategic Data email customers to send many millions of monthly email messages into schools and districts.  Some percentage of those sends lead to orders all at a fraction of catalog printing and mailing costs. This made the whole process far more cost effective. 


Well, we have now come full circle.  The days of mass saturation email promotions are gone.  But this does not mean that effective and profitable email promotions are gone.  It means that companies need to return to their roots of targeting, testing, and investment in using the email channel correctly.  Here are some of the important email address “Do’s and Don’ts”:

Email Addresses - Your Audience

Target – Target – Target. The Email marketing channel allows for quick turnaround on message delivery and almost immediate performance analytics once a campaign is underway.  Engagement with recipient educators is critical and smart marketers will start their campaign reach with tightly defined audiences and expand their universe carefully from there.  Promotional messages will most likely resonate better with prospective audiences that look like your best customers.  Start with a smaller sized audience and judge effectiveness (opens and engagement) on that first.  Solid engagement with the best prospecting audience can then lead to expanding the audience coverage but still stay within acceptable threshold tolerances.  This is how you slowly maximize the reach while still staying out of trouble.  Sending to an overly broad audience universe, that is unlikely to have an interest in your offering, will just lead to blocked messages and reported spam filings.


Clean and deliverable prospecting lists and customer files are essential.  Poor quality lists that produce hard bounces beyond a few percentage points are now the kiss of death in educational marketing.  Nothing will get a marketer in trouble faster than a very high hard bounce rate.  It is the quickest way to a blacklist.  Marketers should validate and permission pass their email lists on a regular basis.  If a marketer deploys a campaign and sees a high hard bounce rate, they should immediately stop the campaign and clean the lists.

Be careful of “catch-all” email statuses.  When marketers go to email validation services, they frequently get what is called a “ping” check on email deliverability. This is when the service provider does not send any actual message to the recipient addresses, but instead sends a request to confirm the status of an email address.  More and more districts and schools are now returning these pings with what is known as a “catch-all” response. Which basically means, the receiving server is not going to say if the email address is or is not a valid email address.  In these cases, an actual email to the address is the only good way to find out if it is valid and operational.  A permission pass or other means can accomplish this.

Catch All
Helpful Tips

Offer value. Messages that are written carefully for a specific audience and provide helpful information that engages the reader to gather more information work best.  Use cases, success stories, white papers and other call to actions help pull the message recipient to take the next step while not just asking for an order or lead. These alternative call to actions also helps keep your messages from being scored as pure promotional.

Email receptivity tracking.  When it comes to prospecting emails targeting alone is not always enough.  In some cases, schools and districts may have such tight inbox placement standards that almost no promotional messages make it through.  Also, sometimes educators just do not engage with email as a channel, or they have put all promotional emails in junk folders making it almost impossible to get a promotional email message successfully into their inbox.  In these cases, it is unlikely that any promotional email will engage them.  Sending specifically to recipients that have a known past engagement with email promotions is a very effective way to promote to the best prospects.  In one test done by MCH Strategic Data, an email responsive list of 10,000 prospects was put up against a random pull of 25,000 general prospects and it outperformed in terms of total leads 2 to 1 with far fewer sends.


The key take away here is that quality counts.  For years educational marketers grabbed up emails anywhere they could get them.  Low cost and email by the pound opportunities flourished.  A quick send might drop 20% or 30% hard bounces on a list but the remaining emails were good to go. This is no longer true.  Marketers will find themselves on the naughty list VERY quickly now and the cost of blacklisting is high (see blacklisting IP and Domains).  Doing things the right way will be way cheaper in the long run.  Avoid overseas vendors that sell thousands of email addresses for a few hundred dollars or educational data companies that won't give you a quality report on email health.

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